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256 MY COUNTRY AND MY PEOPLE
one hundred and twenty feet high and two hundred and forty
feet wide. The Taoist monk copied the story from the rock
inscriptions, and when it came to Ts'ao Hsiiehch'in's hands he
worked at it for ten years and revised it five times, dividing it
into chapters, and he wrote a verse on it:
These pages tell of babbling nonsense,
A string of sad tears they conceal.
They all laugh at the author's folly;
But who could know its magic appeal?
At the end of the story, when one of the most tragic and deeply
human dramas was enacted, and the hero had become a monk
and the soul which had given him intelligence and capacity
for love and suffering had returned to the rock as Niiwo left it
thousands of years ago, the same Taoist monk reappeared.
This monk is said to have copied the story again and one day
he came to the author's study and put the manuscripts in his
care. Ts'ao Hstiehch'in replied, laughingly: "This is only
babbling nonsense. It is good for killing time with a few good
friends after a wine-feast or while chatting under the lamp-light.
If you ask me how I happen to know the hero of the story, and
want all the details, you are taking it too seriously." Hearing
what he said, the monk threw the manuscripts down on his
table and went away laughing, tossing his head and mumbling
as he went: "Really it contains only babbling nonsense. Both
the author himself and the man who copies it, as well as its
readers, do not know what is behind it all. This is only a
literary pastime, written for pleasure and self-satisfaction."
And it is said that, later on, someone wrote the following verse
When the story is sad and touching,
Then sadder is its tomfoolery.
But we are all in the same dream,
Do not sneer at its buffoonery.
But the tomfooliery, sad and touching as it was, was extremely
good. Because such literature was written for pleasure and